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West Brom v Norwich preview: Rivals keep stumbling and somehow prize still there

Tomorrow evening brings together two of several sides who have seen play-off aspirations fall away at the final hurdle.

Albion coach Damia Abella consoles Taylor Gardner-Hickman on Wednesday. Carlos Corberan said the young midfielder can grow from his experience
Albion coach Damia Abella consoles Taylor Gardner-Hickman on Wednesday. Carlos Corberan said the young midfielder can grow from his experience

Norwich City have endured a weak campaign following Premier League relegation and are currently licking their wounds down in 11th after a dire run of form.

While Albion’s emergence under Carlos Corberan was launched from the very bottom of the Championship pile, greater things were expected of the Canaries under Dean Smith and then David Wagner.

But just a single win in nine is typical of the form of many of the play-off chasers, who appear to have let the heat get to them when it really matters, at the business end.

It is typical of a poor-quality division. Remarkably and despite that awful run, Norwich are still just three points adrift of sixth with two games left as rivals trip up over themselves.

Millwall looked to have the play-offs sewn up but are now nervously in seventh after just one win in seven.

Blackburn, after going eight games without a win, are still only outside on goal difference.

Albion’s form of two wins from eight is somehow best of that bunch. Preston have wobbled, Watford are hapless, Swansea’s surge might be too late. Coventry and Sunderland, currently fifth and sixth, are licking their lips.

The Baggies or Canaries can somehow keep fading top-six dreams alive as The Hawthorns sees its final action of the regular season.

It is a rollercoaster campaign to summarise another time for Corberan’s hosts, but a final push for two wins to secure 69 points could, somehow, be enough. Though that remains unlikely. The last time 69 points secured play-offs was 2012/13 – it hasn’t happened otherwise since the late 1980s.

It will be interesting as to whether Corberan gives Taylor Gardner-Hickman the chance to recover and respond from his Bramall Lane setback.

The head coach insisted at full-time on Wednesday night that the 21-year-old can benefit from the costly error as he grows as a footballer.

Academy product Gardner-Hickman was in bits at the end of the game and such moments for bright, young players are difficult to see. Corberan said his players rallied around the midfielder and told him defeat was not his fault.

He was Albion’s stand-out performer before the error. Corberan’s men were better than the edgy Blades and Gardner-Hickman’s first half was packed full of the forward-thinking quality on the ball he possesses.

But the night the hosts secured promotion will be remembered for all the wrong reasons for Albion and Gardner-Hickman – who will be desperate for a chance to go again and rectify his wrong.

He deserves another crack, too. But whether Corberan once more opts to leave out John Swift, the attacking midfield regular this season, will be a fascinating call. Gardner-Hickman was very much operating in a full attacking midfield number 10 role, something he has not done too often.

It would be a real show of a faith if the youngster gets the nod against the Canaries.

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